Personal computer makers’ call centers are buzzing these days.

Traffic is increasing because of the copious features PCs come equipped with — features many people find difficult to use.

In the last few years, the call centers have noticed a change in the type of questions. Whereas in the old days most calls came from computer geeks looking for technical information, now “about 70 percent of consultations are about how to use PCs,” an official at NEC Corp. said.

Callers often get angry, saying a PC is broken. In many cases it just wasn’t turned on.

But even if some of the calls are unreasonable, “It is our iron rule not to hang up the phone,” the NEC official said. “There was a customer who continued to talk over the phone for 24 hours.”

PCs increasingly are designed with many features, including TV and DVD capabilities, digital broadcast antennas and interfaces for mobile music players.

“Since PCs have become like electric household appliances, people who think that all functions can be used if they are switched on are increasing,” said an official at Fujitsu Ltd.

When TV signals aren’t coming in, it is hard to know what’s causing the trouble — the PC or the antenna, which requires knowledge about other companies’ products.

NEC’s call center in Osaka is filled with the strong Kansai accent. Usually, calls are directed to centers across the country, but this facility only takes calls from the Kansai region.

“If a customer in Osaka talks to our staff in Okinawa Prefecture, the customer gets irritated over the staff’s ‘slow’ way of speaking,” the NEC official said.

Dell Computer Corp. recently established a support center with 300 staff members in Miyagi Prefecture.

Fujitsu has doubled phone lines at its call centers in the last two years and increased support staff 40 percent to 700.

More than 70 percent of households have computers. In the future, demand will be for replacements. Customers who get good service will likely choose the same computer vendor the next time around.

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